I know I said I would be writing about each yoga sutra from Book 1 (of the Yoga Sutras). But in coming home and re-diving back into Ashtanga in my practice, I thought we should skip ahead for now and take a look at Book 2, sutra 28.
‘Yoganganusthanad asuddhi ksaye jnanadiptir a vivekakhyateh’
A little bit of a mouthful, especially to my new eyes and brains to the Sanskrit markings on the letters.
With explanation taken from the Yoga Sutras book with translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda, here it is broken down:
Yoga = union
anga = limbs
anushthanat = by the practice
asuddhi = impurity
ksaye = destruction / dwindling
jnanaiptih = light of wisdom
a = leads to
vivekakhyateh = discriminative discernment
‘By the practice of the limbs of Yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.’
Maybe you’re like, what does this have to do with me? I just do yoga to get fit, to stretch, to be stronger with my body.. to be honest this is how yoga started out for me. Perhaps because it then came to me in my life in a time where I really needed it (my dad passing away), it became more than a fitness practice to me in those times. And perhaps now at another growing stage of my life, entering the 30s, it comes to me again with another perspective, another shard deeper into my Being, even further away from how I began, only being concerned with the yoga=fitness equation. Who knows why. Am I with a gullible nature you (and I) might wonder? Does this ‘deeper’ part of yoga with all the sutras and things only start affecting people who are really seeking something more to life? Is it a religion? Are you in a cult, Charlene? Haha, as mad as this sounds they are certainly things that of course cross my ever-questioning mind, and also it ain’t so mad as I’ve been asked these questions (whether directly or indirectly) since my time in Edinburgh. (There is no offence taken by the way for those who have asked! 😀 I also wonder all these things and more myself).
Well! I don’t have an answer to those questions. This is new too, I always used to HAVE to have an answer for everything, whether they made sense or not.
So away from my personal mind musings and to the translation of the sutra above. What impurities you might think? I don’t want to do yoga to get rid of any impurities! I’m fine just the way I am. I don’t need more wisdom, this is all sounding abit weird..
Again, (I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a broken record), of course I’ve thought of these things too. I just did yoga to get strong, I liked the peace it gave my conscious mind. I liked the way it made me feel. I didn’t think there was any impurities to get rid off. Perfectly happy with how I am. And that’s great too, if you’re perfectly happy with the way you are.. but if so it really shouldn’t be irritating to the psyche to read things like this about yoga if you were indeed perfectly content.. It’s how it happened with me anyway. Outwardly confident, with strong opinions and strong moral grounds on many a topic, yoga for me was to build on what I already did have and grow upwards, have more, gain peace, gain strength, gain composure, gain flexibility,gain control (over body and mind), gain gain gain… To bring it back to the simple bit we all understand about asanas (postures); How is it we find balance in an asana? Yes, that’s right. By using certain muscles to help take you there, then letting those muscles relax in response, for you to go ‘in’ to the posture. Give and take, Push and pull, Extend and flex, Contract and release. And with those opposing forces working together, you find balance in your asana.
Taking that into say, life. I discovered that me gaining and gaining and seeking to gain and gain and gain more and more was leaving me feeling, well, strangely more disgruntled. I’m gaining all these muscles! Why am I still insecure? I’m getting so strong! Why am I still dissatisfied? I’m gaining all this flexibility! Look! I can totally get into this mad asana. Why am I still feeling like it’s not enough?
I probably never voice these feelings, and I would (as we all would) put it down to just, well, thats me. That’s me, I just generally feel like that. No reason, Charlene, gain more strength, so you don’t feel like this! I think it was slightly mad that I didn’t quite see what I was mentally doing to myself.. where was the taking, the pulling, the flexing, the release to counter all this gaining I was trying to strive for? It is so easy to do this too! It is so easy to keep striving, thinking what you’re doing is not enough, you can always do more, be better, be better, be better. Because you can, right? But perhaps what we can do is totally different from what we need to do. And what we can do with no counter balance to this nature could end up truly leaving us in a state of disarray and unhappiness. Food for thought there!! 😀
So what is the light of wisdom the sutra is meaning, and what is the discriminative discernment? Well, for me personally since taking my physical practice on the mat more inwardly, focussing not on the gaining that the asana’s would give me, but simply the being (present) when I am practicing, this was the wisdom that I’ve found. To do away with the need to do yoga for such specific purposes and letting those purposes bind my mind and my practice to such a narrow spectrum of how it could be in my life, but instead just being there when I am practicing, all focus and attention going to my state of mind, my breathing, my body, right at that moment. No need for thought for why in the world I am doing it, but more enjoyment and release of my mind to being happy and grateful in taking the time that hour or two to spend with myself in my yoga practice.
The discriminative discernment comes for me with very day to day things. Like what things to just let go, and realising when comments, thoughts and whatever else that comes internally and externally do not need my anger, my frustration, my irritability. Is this creating a more placid me who doesn’t stand her own ground? Well no. I still have my morals and ideas, but I have also seen the light (!! lol :D) that other people also have their own morals and ideas, which we all think we are right on. So.. I can’t change them and they can’t change me. And yes while debates are always healthy, so is acceptance at the end of the day that everyone has their own ways of seeing and living the world, and I am not necessarily the correct one. Who is anyway? And learning this has made me less of a frustrated person with things that I wouldn’t agree with. Which has really led me to slowly understand what compassion means. I don’t think I truly did before.
Wow all these words and I haven’t even got to the next sutra, 29, which describes what these limbs of Yoga are! (these 8 limbs described are the basis of Ashtanga Yoga = eight limbed yoga) Stay tuned… till the next blog post…